Get hands on – Skill UP with work experience

By Katie Holloway

I’m from the Isle of Wight and studied marketing at university. When most people hear the words ‘work experience’ they picture themselves in a dull office doing the tedious tea run or not so fun filing. Although this may be the case some of the time, putting up with these tasks can lead to some fantastic opportunities and you’ll have a great time along the way.

There are many ways to find work experience. Do your parents or teachers have any contacts? If not, check out the local paper or just think of somewhere you’d like to work and call or email them – you’ve got nothing to lose by asking. Companies often need help and you’ll learn lots of new skills that will be great to show off when it comes to applying for jobs, college, apprenticeships or university.

If you are interested in writing or journalism, contact your local newspaper or radio station. If you like health and beauty, you might want to spend a few days at your local salon. Or if you’re crazy about cars and fancy getting your hands dirty, ask your local garage. Getting hands-on experience is a great way to build your confidence and find out if you actually enjoy something.

I still talk about my work experience. I had just finished my A Levels and was due to begin university in the autumn. I chose a marketing degree, as I enjoyed studying business, but also liked design and technology. However, I didn’t have any first-hand experience. I had a whole summer to myself and, although I had my part-time job at Tesco, I wanted to make the most of it.

My dad worked for the local council and spotted an advert on their website offering experience for a student interested in running events. Although they had previously taken on university students, I met with the head of the team and showed enthusiasm for the role. I began spending one day a week in the office taking on tasks like photocopying and managing spreadsheets. However, I soon got the opportunity to take part in some great events, including:

  • A royal visit from Prince Charles and Camilla – I was given the job of managing the crowds,
    which meant I got the best views.
  • Cowes Week (one of the biggest sailing events in the world) – I had the role of stewarding it,
    which was a great experience and I even got my own walky-talky!
  •  Cycle the Wight (a round-the-island race to raise money for charity) – I managed the
    registration desk.

My work experience is one of the main reasons I was able to secure a fantastic work placement for
my degree with IBM in London (an international technology company), which involved a mystery
shopper project, customer events and researching business partner performance.

Katie’s tips to make it count:

  • Don’t just list your work experience on your CV – explain what skills you gained and how it
    benefited you.
  • Include part time job experience – for example, working on a checkout can be valuable,
    especially if you’re after a job that needs customer service skills.
  • Don’t be shy – volunteer to take on extra work or get involved in other projects while you’re
    there. When it comes to a job, make sure you’re the first person that comes to mind.

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